This category contains the intention-setting ideas from the monthly newsletter.

5 Intention-setting Ideas to Honor Juneteenth

Last year, in the midst of the pandemic, a new federal holiday was honored by legislation that signed it into law, even though it has been celebrated for over 150 years.  Juneteenth is the holiday that commemorates and celebrates the freedom of all Black people in the South that were enslaved.  Although the Emancipation Proclamation was issued by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1,1863, it took another two and half years for this information to travel to Galveston, Texas and inform the slaves there of their freedom.  The officials in Texas announced slavery was abolished on June 19th, 1865.  The 15th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States was ratified six months later to outlaw slavery nationwide.

This holiday celebrates the culture, history and pride as well as the strength and resiliency of black communities.  It is important to honor such events and holidays to make the time to remember and heal.

Below are intention-setting ideas for you to consider for honoring our collective history on this Juneteenth holiday:

  1. Read a Book. Below is a list of books (for various ages) to consider reading to honor this holiday:
    • Children
      • Addy:  An American Girl (a series by Connie Rose Porter)
      • Freedom’s Gifts:  A Juneteenth Story (by Valerie Wesley, illustrated by Sharon Wilson)
    • Adolescents
      • Crossing Ebenezer Creek (by Tonya Bolden)
      • Stamped:  Racism, Antiracism, and You (by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds)
    • Adults
      • Juneteenth (by Ralph Ellison)
      • The Brightesst Day:  A Juneteenth Historical Romance Anthology (by Kianna Alexander, Alyssa Cole, Lena Hart, and Piper Huguley)
  2. Watch a Video/Movie.  If you prefer watching something to reading, below is a list of movies to consider to honor this holiday:
    • Miss Juneteenth
    • Slavery by Another Name
    • Civil War (or, Who Do We Think We Are)
    • Whose Streets?
  3. Join a Celebration.  Search for gatherings in your local area and plan to attend with friends and family.
  4. Sip a Red Drink.  Red beverages (and foods) on this holiday are symbolic of the blood shed by the slaves.  Perhaps plan to have some Hibiscus tea or Strawberry soda as part of the celebration of this holiday.
  5. Support a Black-owned Restaurant.  If you were thinking of going out for a meal (instead of mingling in the crowd of a local celebration), perhaps search for local black-owned restaurants in your area and perhaps order a red drink too!

As always, if you try any of these intention-setting ideas for holistic health, I would love to hear about the impact they might have had for you.  Please send me an email at linda@sanctuary4compassion.com to share!

5 Intention-setting Ideas to Reduce Microplastics in Your Life

In preparing for a screening colonoscopy this year, I met with my gastroenterologist recently to schedule the procedure.  I told him I was on the “every 10 year plan” since I had changed my diet.  He said “You can do everything right” like reducing the amount of red meat you are eating, avoiding processed foods, eating more fruits and vegetables, etc.; however, you cannot avoid ingesting microplastics.  He offered that recent research suggests that we consume the weight of a credit card’s worth of small plastic particles every week and microplastics “have even been found in lung tissue”, implying we are breathing it in as well as eating it!!!  Hearing this was scary and had me feeling a little helpless and hopeless.

This information came my way at the same time as Jupiter and Neptune were aligning in Pisces (on 4/12/22) for the first time in 166 years.  This planetary alignment is known to support new creations and insights.  Shortly thereafter I heard about Harvard University’s work to address sustainability at a systemic level by creating sustainable plastics, supporting the release of my fear and opening my heart once again to hope.

In honor of the recent work by students and staff at Harvard, below are intention-setting ideas for you to consider as you reflect on your relationship with our Earth and how you might reduce your carbon footprint as we await the mass production/distribution of these new bioplastics:

  1. Do Your Own Research. If you want to learn more about Harvard’s research on bioplastics, take a look here.  If you would prefer to listen to learn, click here to tune into the most recent Global Energy Transition Talk that was recorded on 4/28/22.  It is truly inspirational!
  2. Buy Local and Fresh.  I know we are all tired of hearing about the supply chain issues that have come about during the pandemic.  Yet, perhaps this is the exact motivation we need to prioritize finding ourselves at our local farmer’s market weekly and implementing that plan to eat more fresh foods that are in-season locally.  And remember to bring your own cloth bag to bring home all of the goodies you find!
  3. Don’t Microwave Food in Plastic Containers.  Transfer foods into a microwaveable glass or ceramic dish before warming it up in the microwave.  If you want to take it a step further, perhaps consider getting rid of any plastic storage containers in your home and transition to ceramic and/or glass for both storage and heating.  Heating plastic containers in the microwave – or even cleaning them in the dishwasher – degrades the plastic, leaking microplastic chemicals into your food and water supplies.
  4. Drink Only Filtered Water.  Whether you invest in a filter for your taps in your home or you buy a refrigerator that has a filtered water dispenser, consider eliminating drinking bottled water.  Research out of State University of New York at Fredonia, Department of Geology & Environmental Sciences found 93% of bottled water showed some sign of microplastic contamination.
  5. Buy Plastic-free Personal Care Products.  Microplastics are used in body washes and toothpastes, to just name a few personal care products that are made with plastics.  Consider finding alternatives that are plastic-free or contain biodegradable microbeads for that exfoliation effect.

As always, if you try any of these intention-setting ideas for holistic health, I would love to hear about the impact they might have had for you.  Please send me an email at linda@sanctuary4compassion.com to share!

5 Intention-setting Ideas to Reduce Stress

April is Stress Awareness Month!

The month of April, among other things, has been designated Stress Awareness Month.  The first step to making any change in our life is awareness.  Without awareness, we tend to  continue on our journeys doing the same old things, repeating old patterns, all while hoping the results will be different.  The pandemic has brought additional sources of stress, so it is perhaps even more critical now for our health to consider the impacts on our lives.

With awareness comes understanding, which leads to compassion and choice.  One of the best habits we can develop for our body/mind/spirit health is learning our personal triggers and noticing when and where we feel stress.  To this end, below are some ideas to consider to support this healthy habit:

  1. Understand common sources of stress.  Change – good or bad – tends to create stress.  Therefore, recognizing the amount of change we are experiencing in the moment can help the mind to understand why we might not feel ourselves.  With this awareness and understanding, we might be more willing to offer ourselves some compassion, letting that compassion support our next choice.  We all might recognize that the loss of a partner or other loved one as being stressful, yet we might not be as aware that marriage, pregnancy, retirement from work, quitting smoking, vacation, and/or moving to a new home are stress producing life events.  Consider taking a moment to complete the Life Change Index Scale (The Stress Test) to deepen your understanding of what life events are considered stressful and determine your current level of stress from those events.
  2. Know the symptoms of PTSD.  The source of our stress might not be coming from our current experience of change but may be emanating from a past experience of trauma.  Most of us are aware that war Veterans may experience Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD); however, many (I dare say most) of us are not aware that PTSD can be a result of early adverse childhood experiences such as divorce, having a parent with a mental health challenge and/or addiction, and/or witnessing domestic violence, non-the-less more overt abuse and neglect. Consider taking a moment to complete the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Questionnaire to determine your ACE score and how your childhood experiences may be impacting your current body/mind/spirit health.
  3. Identify where you experience stress in the body.  Once you have gained a greater awareness of what life events (past and present) cause change and stress, consider taking a moment to sit in reflection, welcoming your stress to be present in your awareness, and sense into your body.  We all experience stress in our bodies differently.  Some of us might experience headaches/migraines.  Others might experience digestive issues, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).  And others may experience frequent, diffuse muscular and nerve pain.  Our bodies hold great wisdom, so taking the time to welcome the sensations and notice where the mind’s awareness is drawn into the body, contributes to the foundation of the healthy habit of acknowledging when and where we are experiencing stress.
  4. Give yourself permission to learn to relax.  Many of us were not taught to value fun and relaxation as a basic human need.  In fact, I think the message most of us sensed was that we must work hard to be successful (whatever the definition of success might be for each of us) which does not leave time and space for anything else.  So know that it is up to you to challenge that message by embracing a new message, one that allows you to prioritize you.  Prioritizing your self-care is not selfish!  It is absolutely necessary to find balance and peace and health!!  Therefore, consider finding what works for you, whether it is movement, writing, connecting with others, anything that is a way to release stress from the body and mind and give yourself permission to just do it.
  5. Set limits.  I discovered a mantra many years ago that I found very freeing:  Say no so others can grow.  And yes, it can be easier to say than do!  However, with a little practice and a change in perspective, you will find it gets easier.  The change in perspective is seeing “saying no” as a gift you are giving the other person (and also to yourself!).  For example, when teaching a little one to tie their shoes, at some point you must say to them, “No, I’m not going to do it for you today as I know you know how to do it yourself.”  And, although they might get mad and cry (and even scream), if you stick it out, the joy they experience once they have done it themselves is the gift.  When you can really embrace this new perspective, you will begin to think “Who am I to think I have to do everything myself and rob others of opportunities for growth?”  If one of your personal values is growth then saying no to others can be seen as the necessary rain for the growth of others (and, oh, by the way, for yourself).  Setting limits in this way results in growth while reducing stress by reducing the probability that we will overcommit ourselves.

As always, if you try any of these intention-setting ideas for holistic health, I would love to hear about the impact they might have had for you.  Please send me an email at linda@sanctuary4compassion.com to share!

5 Intention-setting Ideas to Celebrate a World of Flavors

March is National Nutrition Month!

As the weather begins to warm up, we begin to feel called outdoors more.  The crocuses, daffodils, pansies, and violets begin to bloom inviting our sense of sight to enjoy the colors.  As the fruit trees blossom, the sweet smells floating in the air remind us of the delicious bounty to arrive soon.  As our senses become enlivened, our mouths begin to water in anticipation of tasting our favorite fruits and vegetables right from our own gardens or our local organic farmer’s market!

With the renewed energy of Spring, we can devote some of our self-care to celebrate National Nutrition Month this month.  Below I provide intention-setting ideas to consider this month.  It is my hope you will consider trying one!

  1. Read Labels.  Consider setting an intention this month to read the labels on the food you buy.  This intention would be to simply raise your awareness of the nutritional value, not necessarily to change what you eat.  Change doesn’t happen unless we are aware.
  2. Try a new fruit/veggie. Perhaps you set an intention to try a new fruit or vegetable each week this month.  I remember when I simply thought “I don’t like brussels sprouts.”  Boy was I wrong!!  Now I can’t get enough of them.  The same goes for mangos on the fruit side.  I guess we grew up with what fruits and vegetables our parents either grew, liked, or cooked.  If we didn’t like them, we might have shut down options that we might find delicious now.  We never had brussels sprouts growing up, so they were not even on my list of possibilities. Now I miss them when spring comes around!
  3. Eat more meals as a family.  Honor how food can bring people together by scheduling more family meals.  Then perhaps consider challenging everyone at the table to identify the top nutrients that are provided by the food being served/eaten.
  4. Explore Food Recovery Options.  Consider researching the EPA’s Food Recovery Hierarchy to learn how to reduce food waste.  There are so many food delivery options available these days and we choose Imperfect Foods to support the reduction of food waste.  If this might resonate with you, check out their website here.
  5. See a Nutritionist.  Whether you see a Registered Dietician or an Ayurvedic Health Practitioner, both are food and nutrition experts that can provide guidance on what foods are best for you.  We all have unique constitutions, so what works for one will not work for all.  To be successful, an eating plan must be individualized and consider the whole person, including any health conditions.  Perhaps set an intention to schedule a consultation with a nutrition expert this year to learn more about options for including healthier practices into your life.

As always, if you try any of these intention-setting ideas for holistic health, I would love to hear about the impact they might have had for you.  Please send me an email at linda@sanctuary4compassion.com to share!

5 Intention-setting Ideas to Honor Friendship

February is International Friendship Month!

Friends are our family of choice and this month we get to celebrate that family!  Over the past two years, we have needed our friends more than ever, whether they speak, bark or purr.  Such connections can warm our hearts and calm our minds.  And the power of these connections goes beyond the individual level to our communities and to our nations, bringing security and comfort to all.

Below are intention-setting ideas to honor the friendships in our lives this month.  It is my hope you will try one and lean into the feelings that arise from such connections!

  1. Write a Letter.  Consider writing a heart-felt letter to a childhood friend, expressing what that friendship has meant to you.
  2. Plan a Gathering. Whether it is a morning gathering for tea or a weekend getaway, make a plan to come together to celebrate your friendship.  Perhaps dedicate some time to share with each other what brought you together and what has kept you connected.
  3. Friendship Movies.  Perhaps plan a movie night with friends, which can even be done remotely, if that might feel safer at this time.  Some ideas for movies that reflect various flavors of friendship include:  First Wives Club, White Fang, The Hangover, The Lion King, Bridesmaids, Star Wars, and one of my favorites, Hachi: A Dog’s Tale.  You might even consider having a box of tissues handy!
  4. Adopt a Best Friend.  If you have been considering adopting a pet, perhaps this is the month you actually visit a shelter or contact a rescue organization to start the process!
  5. Be Your Own Best Friend.  What would it be like if you treated yourself like you treat your best friend?  What would you do for yourself?  What would you say to yourself?  Perhaps pick a day this month to do just that, offering yourself compassion in those challenging moments, treating yourself to your favorite dessert without judgment, and setting aside time to do something you have been wanting to do, but have not allowed yourself to do it.  Afterwards, journal about how it felt to embrace yourself as your own best friend!

As always, if you try any of these intention-setting ideas for holistic health, I would love to hear about the impact they might have had for you.  Please send me an email at linda@sanctuary4compassion.com to share!

5 Intention-setting Ideas to Manifest Radical Self Acceptance as Your New Year Intention

Perhaps, with the advent of the pandemic, this is THE year that we stop setting New Year resolutions that set us up for failure and challenge our mental health and, instead, consider the only intention that will support lasting health, mind, body and spirit – self-acceptance.

When we can truly accept ourselves, both our light and our shadow as a human being, we are in a balanced space to fertilize the soil for continued growth.  Self-acceptance will not bring on a superiority complex or make us vain, as those spaces are ones of imbalance, leaning into only our gifts and ignoring or defending our imperfections or limitations.  Self-acceptance will lead us away from self-doubt, low self-esteem, low self-worth, and any other spaces that suggest we are less than other.  Learning self-acceptance will land you in a place of humility, where you are able to recognize yourself as perfectly imperfect, allowing you to move into spaces of vulnerability to deeply connect with yourself and others.  It is in this fertile soil where we can identify parts of ourselves that currently live in the shadows and invite them to sit with us in the light, creating opportunities for growth.

Below I offer ideas you might want to try to support your new year intention of radically accepting yourself exactly as you are now:

  1. Let Go of Goals.  I know, I know, your thinking but how will I know if I am being productive?  Setting goals and failing to attain them messes with our mental health.  And, even when we meet them, we believe we have to set an even higher goal to achieve, inviting our perfectionist to step forward and carry the load.  We have been taught that without goals, we are aimless.  That is a myth.  Every day we accomplish a lot, like getting out of bed, bathing and feeding ourselves, taking care of our loved ones, laundry, chores, errands, connecting with friends, to name a few.  Perhaps consider redefining what we might consider productive.  Instead of it meaning completing tasks at work and/or learning a new skill, maybe productive can mean improving relationships by being kind to yourself and others, listening deeply to someone who is struggling, keeping an open mind when someone’s opinion is different than yours or setting a healthy boundary, where you say no, so others can grow.  Can you imagine what the world might look like if productive meant this?
  2. Practice Self-compassion. Self-compassion has been shown to reduce the challenging uncomfortable feelings that we experience when we make a mistake or stumble on our journeys.  It is offering ourselves kindness and forgiveness, as we would offer a friend that tells you about a mistake they just made.  Unfortunately, we are not taught or shown how to offer ourselves such compassion.  The good news is that it can be learned, if we practice.  Consider trying some of the free meditations and exercises that can be found at the Center for Mindful Self-Compassion website.
  3. Lose Control.  We spend so much energy trying to control ourselves and everything around us.  When we begin to realize there is really not that much we can actually control, life begins to offer us the space to flow with it, instead of against it.  One thing I learned that I can control is my breath.  Our bodies breathe themselves without much awareness from our minds, leading to a deeper mind-body disconnection.   But the diaphragm is actually a skeletal muscle, which means we have control over it.  Consider bringing your awareness to your breath the next time you find yourself trying to control a situation, where the mind and body are tight, and allow your mind to lengthen your inhale (through the nose) and lengthen your exhale (through the nose) for the next several breaths.  Take notice if the control of your breath (internal experience) satisfies the in-the-moment need to control the external situation.  This practice will support a shift away from the need to control so much and ease you into the space of ‘going with the flow’ more.
  4. Write It Out.  Journaling has been shown to assist us in getting clearer about who we really are, by allowing us the space to feel our feelings, and then describing or labeling the emotions and why we might be experiencing them.  When we can feel our feelings and label our emotions, we learn that the uplifting ones reflect our needs being satisfied and the heavy ones reflect our needs not being satisfied.  Identifying our needs supports the process of getting to know ourselves better.  If this effort sounds a bit challenging for you, consider reviewing Marshall Rosenberg’s Feelings Inventory to jump start the process.  Then perhaps take a moment to reflect on the last time you might have been experiencing one of the feelings listed under your needs not being met and explore what need was being dismissed or ignored.  Again, Marshall Rosenberg provides a Needs Inventory to support this part of the journey.  When we can identify our needs (and we all have them!), we are then able to begin the process of radically accepting them for the data they provide about what makes tick.
  5. Develop Supportive Mantras.  Another layer of writing it out includes listing supportive mantras to challenge the critical voice in our minds that believes it is what motivates us to do or be better.  Supportive mantras, such as “My needs matter”, “I’m good enough” and “I don’t have to prove my worth to anyone” can stop the critical voice in its tracks.  Consider developing a list of such mantras in your journal that challenge your critical voice and keeping it accessible so you can turn to it when the powerful emotions arise and the critical voice gets loud.  Powerful emotions are part of being human, yet the critical voice is a different story.  When we can befriend our emotions and tune out the critical voice, the road to self-acceptance becomes smoother.

As always, if you try any of these intention-setting ideas for holistic health, I would love to hear about the impact they might have had for you.  Please send me an email at linda@sanctuary4compassion.com to share!

5 Intention-setting Ideas to Support Leaning In

‘Tis the Season!

Although the great marketers of the world want us to believe this is the season of peace, December brings mixed emotions and feelings for most of us and this year continues in that same tradition.  Due to the pandemic, we yearn for a deeper connection with our loved ones more than ever, yet reality often brings unexpected results.  So my offering this month includes a focus on self, through small steps you might take to bring yourself some INNER peace (which, in a round about way, invites OUTER peace).

The steps listed below are ones I have actually taken myself over the years to invite more inner peace into my human beingness, so I hope you will l consider trying one yourself.  I am wishing much inner peace to all this holiday season!

  1. Set Limits.  I would find myself over committed and over extended each year, as my people pleasing part went into overdrive!  So, I began to slowly say “No” to things that did not bring me absolute joy or that had the taste of obligation associated with it.  I also began to set time limits on social gatherings so I could build more down time into my schedule.  Those time limits applied both to myself and to others.  I’ll admit the first couple of times I set such limits was awkward and uncomfortable, yet I was surprised at how quickly I felt relief, more freedom and a greater sense of peace.  Consider setting one limit this season, sit back and observe what happens!
  2. Slow down. This concept was a really hard one for me to embrace.  I rushed around everywhere, even finding myself running down the halls at work, just so I might fit in just one more thing in my day.  It was exhausting!  I believed I was great at multi-tasking.  I have to thank my yoga practice on the mat for helping me to down-shift and it didn’t happen right away.  But with practice, I did finally shift my perspective to ‘One thing at a time’ and brought myself much inner peace.  Now, although I always recommend trying it, yoga is not the only path to slowing down.  It might be making a commitment to spending more time in nature or reducing your “To Do” list by one each week, until you only have 3 items on it per day (with one of them being some form of self-care!).  Perhaps you consider the idea of “being” as productive as “doing”, because being present, being intentional, and being attentive are some of the best gifts you can give yourself and others!  Perhaps sitting with some aspect of yourself that invites the perfectionist and inner critic out and, instead, get curious about that part of you that you have been judging and write down how it has served you.  See if you can identify at least 3 ways it has served you and then check in with how you might now feel about it.
  3. Judge Yourself Less.  The perfectionist inside partners with the inner critic believing that judgment will motivate us to do better, be better.  Unfortunately, overtime, when we strive for perfection, which is an unattainable goal, we are setting ourselves up for failure.  The inevitable failure to attain perfection perpetuates the vicious cycle, adding fuel to the inner conflict.  To truly lean into inner peace, we need to accept ourselves as limited and flawed human beings, with gifts, strengths and weaknesses.  It is the combination of our gifts, strengths and weaknesses that make us unique in this world.  The journey of accepting that we are perfectly imperfect beings is the path to true inner peace. Perhaps identify an aspect of yourself that invites the perfectionist and inner critic to come out and sit with it in a space of curiosity.  See if you can write down 3 ways it has served you.  Afterwards, check in and notice if judgment has shifted in some way.
  4. Judge Others Less.  It is human to compare ourselves to others, yet making a judgment about those differences is something that is learned.  That’s the good news – because it can then be unlearned with awareness and understanding.  When I would catch myself judging others, I would try to stop and imagine that I had gotten it totally wrong in the moment, that what I was experiencing was a complete misunderstanding.  The hardest part was catching myself in that judgment of others.  When I could slow my mind down and create some space for understanding, I was then able to lean into the space of accepting that everyone is doing their best with what they know.  Culturally, we are groomed to be judgmental, yet I ask ‘When has judgment brought you inner peace?’  Perhaps consider writing down one judgment you tend to make of others and explore the roots of this judgment.  Who passed this judgment to you, when do you find yourself most judging of this aspect of others, where does this judgment come up most frequently, and why do you believe you make this judgment.  Again, sense into any shift in those judgments after spending some time with it.
  5. Shift Perspective.  As I mentioned above, our perfectionist sets us up for failure, encouraging us to reach for the impossible.  When we fail, we might begin to think to ourselves “Why is this happening to me?”  It wasn’t until I began to create space for myself (see above) that I was able to shift the perspective to “Why is it happening for me?’ instead.  Every failure brings with it a lesson and an opportunity.  It is sitting in those uncomfortable spaces, looking for the lesson and opportunity, that opens the door to acceptance of ourselves in those moments, encouraging us to realign with our authentic selves, and to take our next steps forward from that place of acceptance.  When we can begin to make this shift in perspective, we begin to see our failures simply as the universe guiding us towards our true purpose, instead of believing there must be something wrong with us.  Consider identifying a past failure and exploring what might have grown from that space.  Perhaps you gained new clarity on what brings you joy or you decided to take a class to learn a new skill or it brought a deeper understanding of why it wasn’t sustainable in the long run.  When you reflect on the new areas of growth that emerged, sense into any felt shifts from the change in perspective time provides.

As always, if you try any of these intention-setting ideas for holistic health, I would love to hear about the impact they might have had for you.  Please send me an email at linda@sanctuary4compassion.com to share!

5 Intention-setting Ideas to Open Your Heart

The Attitude of Gratitude:  November is National Gratitude Month!

I love the fact that November has been designated as National Gratitude Month, giving the practice of gratitude the attention it deserves!

I have amped up my practice of gratitude this year as a way to keep my heart open.  I could feel myself pulling back and away, closing off my heart, because of the fear and restrictions that come with the pandemic.

To keep the fires burning to warm your heart, below I have offered some simple practices you might explore to celebrate this month and kick start your own gratitude practices.

  1. Say Thank You!  As we grew up, somewhere along the line, we were told to say “Please” and “Thank You” to others that do something kind for us to be polite.  Maybe our ancestors instinctively sensed that the act of saying “Thank You” had a more profound purpose.  My suggestion for consideration is to delve a bit deeper into the act of expressing this form of appreciation to another by bringing more awareness to this expression, being more conscious in our choice of when, how and to whom we express it.  For example, instead of simply saying “Thank You’ to someone that holds the door open for you as you enter a store, you might slow down and say “Thank you for being so kind and considerate to take the time to hold the door for me today.  I truly appreciate it”.  And then watch, listen and sense into the response!  And, if you are feeling even more adventurous, you might try it with a dear friend or family member.  Set an intention in the morning to catch a loved one “doing something good” and when you do observe them in the act, stop and thank them for what they did.
  2. Focus on the Positive.  Even when things in our life don’t go as planned, if you take some time to sit with the experience, you will be able to discover a unexpected benefit of the change in plans.  By doing so does not necessarily diminish the immediate impact of the sadness or disappointment; however, searching and finding the silver lining and appreciating the benefit has the amazing power of shifting us into an experience of more positive energy, creating space for a more balanced, equilibrated perspective and sense of being.  Consider trying it out today!
  3. Create kindness.  Here’s a fun idea you can do as a craft with friends and family and then share with anyone and everyone.  Collect a bunch of rocks and write something kind on each one.  Then go around your neighborhood or office park and place them where they can be easily found. To read more about this movement started by Megan Murphy, check out this website:  https://www.thekindnessrocksproject.com.  Trust that your message will find the right person at just the right time to change their life!  After you have placed your rock messages around, take some time to sit with yourself and reflect on how the experience in your heart has expressed itself.
  4. Honor our Service Members.  Feeling like you might want to stretch yourself a bit this month and go beyond our borders?  Perhaps consider writing a ‘thank you’ note or letter to a Service member.  Our Active Duty Service members are dedicated to making a difference in our lives without even knowing us.  And, although they may not admit it to many, combat is a scary place, even more so without the comforts of home for some solace.  Receiving an unexpected thank you from a stranger, acknowledging their contributions and sacrifice, might just fan their internal flame of dedication and validate their motivation to serve and protect our freedoms.  Check out Operation Gratitude to learn more about sharing your appreciation with the troops and cracking your own heart wide open!
  5. Write a letter to yourself!  Or maybe this month you are feeling a bit more reflective and sensing your heart needs a more intimate approach to cultivating gratitude.  Then may I recommend writing a ‘thank you’ letter to yourself.  The ultimate practice of kindness might be to express kindness to yourself.  See if you can identify at least 10 aspects that you love about yourself.  Maybe ask someone you care about deeply to do this practice with you and consider sharing what you come up with by saying them out loud to each other.  Again, sit a few moments afterwards to sense into the experience, especially noting the sensations around the heart.  I would love to hear about your observations!

As always, if you try any of these intention-setting ideas for holistic health, I would love to hear about the impact they might have had for you.  Please send me an email at linda@sanctuary4compassion.com to share!

5 Intention-setting Ideas to Support Mental Health

October is Depression and Mental Health Screening Month!

One of the many silver linings of this pandemic has been an increased awareness around mental health.  It has been a long-held belief of mine that if we spent more time, energy and money on supporting mental health, we would radically improve our health care system by significantly reducing what ails us physically.  It does not surprise me that the number one cause of morbidity and mortality is heart disease, which stems from a traumatizing world guiding us to disconnect from the pain and harden our hearts.

So to build upon this growing awareness and to continue to reduce the stigma around mental health challenges, below I provide intention-setting ideas to support compassion and connection, two of the most powerful tools for resiliency.  It is my hope you will consider exploring and then sharing one as we honor Mental Illness Awareness Week the first full week of October!

  1. Take a Stigma Quiz.  Visit the National Association of Mental Illness’s website here to get a better sense of your own personal understanding and beliefs around mental health challenges.  Consider taking this quiz as a simple first step.
  2. Pledge to be Stigma Free. To keep current on mental health, perhaps visit NAMI’s website here to add your name to their StigmaFree campaign to support turning StigmaFree Me into StigmaFree We!
  3. Ok2Talk.org.  Research has shown that sharing what is going on in our minds that we find challenging to us helps reduce its power over us.  Sharing does not necessarily mean talking to another person directly, although that is one option.  NAMI has created this website for people to post their personal stories anonymously.  Perhaps consider checking it out and either posting your own Blog or sharing the site with someone you know that might benefit from such an outlet.
  4. Stretch your Altruistic Muscle.  Research has shown that doing good can do us good.  The benefits include inviting in a sense of belonging, reducing isolation and learning about different perspectives.  Consider visiting the Mental Health Foundation website here for more information and some thoughts about getting started.
  5. Compassionate Conversations Matter.  Connecting with others through conversation is a strategic tool for coping, especially when challenged with powerful feelings that bring about self-defeating thoughts and self-sabotaging behaviors.  If you don’t know where to start, perhaps visit the CDC’s website here to find resources on how to get the conversation started.

As always, if you try any of these intention-setting ideas for holistic health, I would love to hear about the impact they might have had for you.  Please send me an email at linda@sanctuary4compassion.com to share!

5 Intention-setting Ideas to Help Save Lives

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month and September 10th is World Suicide Prevention Day.

Suicide is not an easy topic to talk about and yet that is exactly what is needed in order to reduce the growing rate of this tragedy.  Conversations can make a difference when someone is thinking about suicide.

Did you know that suicide is now the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, that, according to the CDC, suicide rates have increased by more than 30% in half of the states since 1999, and that the youngest person to kill themselves was only 6 years old?

Many of us will notice changes in people around us and get the feeling that “something is not right”. You may not want to say anything for fear you won’t know what to say if they confirm your concerns. While these conversations can be very difficult and confronting, just one conversation can save someone’s life by preventing suicide.

You may not be sure what to do to help, whether you should take talk of suicide seriously, or if your intervention might make the situation worse. Taking action is always the best choice. Here’s what you need to know to start saving lives today:

  1. Know – and look – for the warning signs.  There are several warning signs of suicidal thoughts that you may hear or see, such as:  1)  Seemingly harmless comments such as “I wish I was never born”, “I wish I wasn’t here” and/or “I wish I was dead”; 2) Withdrawing from friends and family and/or wanting to be left alone; 3) Having dramatic mood swings; 4) Impulsive, aggressive and/or reckless behavior; 5) Obsessed with death, dying or violence; and 6) Increasing use of drugs or alcohol.  Additional warning signs that the person’s thoughts may be moving toward putting a plan into action include:  1) Giving away their possessions or getting their affairs in order when there is no other explanation for doing this; 2) Saying goodbye to friends and family as if they are not going to see them again; 3) Their mood shifts from a sense of despair to calm; and 4) Taking action to secure the tools needed to complete suicide, such as buying a gun or stockpiling prescription medications.  Take any and all signs of suicide seriously.  If someone tells you they are thinking of harming themselves or behaves in a way that suggests they may be thinking of suicide, don’t dismiss or ignore the situation as many people who have killed themselves had expressed the intention at some point.
  2. Know the risk factors.  According to NAMI, the following are risk factors for suicide:  1) Previous suicide in the family; 2) Personal history of trauma or abuse; 3) Prolonged stress; 4) Agitation and reduced sleep; 5) A recent loss or tragedy; 6) Isolation; 7) Substance use and intoxication; 8) A serious or chronic mental illness; 9) Access to firearms; 10) Gender (men are 4 times more likely to die from their attempt) and 11) Age (under 24 and over 65 are at a higher risk).
  3. Ask questions!  If you sense something is not right and you have noticed some of the warning signs, connect with the person by asking them some questions.  Be sensitive and direct and ask some of the following:  1) How are you managing with what is going on in your life?; 2) Do you ever feel like just giving up?; 3) Are you thinking about hurting yourself?; 4) Have you ever thought about suicide, or tried to harm yourself, before?.  If they tell you that they have or are currently having suicidal thoughts, continue to ask the following questions: 1) Have you thought about how and when you would do it? and 2) Do you currently have access to the weapons or things that can be used as weapons to harm yourself?  Please know that asking someone if they are experiencing suicidal thoughts or feelings won’t push that person into doing something self-destructive. In fact, connecting with someone by starting the conversation and creating space for them to talk about their feelings may reduce the risk of acting on suicidal feelings.
  4. Know what to do.  If you become concerned that your friend or loved one may attempt suicide:  1) Stay calm (don’t fidget or pace) and don’t leave the person alone; 2) Ask what you can do to help, including “Can I help you call your therapist or psychiatrist?”; 3) If they ask for something, give it to them as long as the request is safe and reasonable; 4)  Don’t argue, threaten, or raise your voice, especially if they are experiencing hallucinations or delusions, instead be gentle and compassionate; 5) Don’t debate whether suicide is right or wrong; 6) Seek support by telling another family member or friend what is going on, by getting help from a trained professional, and/or encouraging them to call a suicide hotline number (i.e., in the U.S., National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)).  Even if your friend or loved one may not be in crisis, it is important to still offer and provide support.  Let them know you are open to talking about what is on their mind.  When listening, demonstrate you are actively engaged in the conversation by providing positive reinforcement, reflecting their feelings and summarizing their thoughts.  Actively listening can help your loved one feel heard and validated.  Reassure your friend or loved one that you care and are concerned for their well-being and that they can lean on you for support.  If your friend or loved one has attempted suicide, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately or take them to nearest emergency room if you believe you can do so safely.  Try to determine if they have taken drugs or alcohol, whether they are under the influence or may have taken an overdose.  As soon as possible, tell a family member or a friend what is going on for additional support as you don’t need to try to handle the situation alone.
  5. Do more.  Start a dialogue now.  Consider watching “13 Reasons Why” and ask others if they have seen it, what they thought about it, and when (i.e., at what age) they might consider it appropriate to have a proactive conversation with their own children on the subject.  Consider helping out at a crisis center or volunteer with an organization that makes house calls to isolated individuals, such as single, house-bound seniors, such a Meals on Wheels.  Share images and graphics on social media to promote awareness and reduce stigma.  Remember that your engagement might just might help prevent suicide by letting others know that there are people that care and that there are other options available!

As always, if you try any of these intention-setting ideas for holistic health, I would love to hear about the impact they might have had for you.  Please send me an email at linda@sanctuary4compassion.com to share!